Bachelor’s or no

I’ve started my summer reading class, the last requirement before I can get my Academic Certificate in Creative Writing from Phoenix College. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s been a long time coming.

I started going to college after I’d been living on my own for a few months, and a whole year after I’d started working my first full time job. Getting the necessary hours to pay bills while balancing nine credits a semester was difficult, but doable. Getting my associates took longer than I care to admit. Like any other college student, I changed my mind about my major a few times while getting my associates. First I wanted to be a translator, become proficient in as many languages as I could. It turned out becoming a linguist was going to take several years. So I narrowed my focus to one of the languages I was curious about; American Sign Language. Phoenix College was the only college in the area that offered an extensive ASL program so, after completing four courses at Glendale Community College, I transferred over to PC.

It wasn’t until I’d already transferred that I realized what a challenge this ASL program was going to be. They offered the required classes in the morning and at night. Once I chose a schedule, I couldn’t change it mid semester. It was either all morning or all night classes. I couldn’t take the morning courses because I worked from 8AM to 5PM, and I couldn’t take the night courses because it would mean sacrificing the few precious hours I could spend with my husband. (He has to be up at 5AM every morning and goes to sleep early as a result. So he would’ve been going to work before I woke up and I would be coming back from my night classes long after he fell asleep.) Finding a new job with mid-afternoon to early evening hours that paid me what my current job was paying proved to be impossible. Any online jobs I found needed experience that I didn’t have. So I had a choice to make: get certified as a Sign Language Interpreter or see my husband on a daily basis.

But then it wasn’t really a choice.

With the ASL program off my options list, I finally allowed myself to consider my dream. See, my dad always encouraged me to chase my dreams but to also consider other, more practical career paths that would help me support myself and eventually my family. In attempting to heed his advice, I’d chosen career paths that I’d been interested in but that were also practical and in high demand where I lived. But I felt that God orchestrated this path for me, the one where life kept “intervening” and changing my plans. Because, with no practical career to follow, I finally started considering a degree in creative writing.

And Phoenix College just so happened to have a Creative Writing Program.

It’s only a certificate but with it I can transfer to a university and eventually earn a Bachelor’s in English with Concentration in Creative Writing or just a BA in Creative Writing. It was while I was taking these courses that I saw the most growth in my writing. It was during this Creative Writing Program that I got my publishing deals. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I’d never felt more sure about my career path, more confident in my schooling choices. For the first time in a long time, I believed I could make it as an author.

I still believe I can make a living off of my writing, but it’s going to take time. During that time, I’d like to keep learning and growing. I’d like to have options if/when I “retire” from authoring. Furthering my education could potentially get me a job at a literary agency or publishing company. Hearing my dad’s voice at the back of my mind, I realize getting a bachelor’s would be the practical thing to. I did some research and, so long as the writing classes from PC transfer to the university I have in mind, I would only need eleven classes in order to get my Bachelor’s in English with Concentration in Creative Writing. Even with the payment program they offer, I could only afford to take two classes a semester. But if I take a class in one of the summer semesters, it would only take me two years and one summer to complete my degree.

If I’m totally honest with myself, the only thing stopping me is my own specific interests. Looking at the restricted electives list for this degree, it’s obvious I’m going to have to read and dissect Shakespeare.  I’m also going to have to “analyze” other “classic literary works” from the 1800s. (Raise your hand if Shakespeare confuses you, frustrates you, and sometimes puts you to sleep. Raise your hand if the only classic literature books you’ve been able to enjoy are Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Raise your hand if you feel physically sick when you hear the words literary analysis. You can’t see me, but I’m raising both hands right now. And hopping up and down because I don’t have an third hand to raise.)

I like modern fiction. You know, books that were written in my life time. Now, I’m a good student. I can put in the effort and skate by with a B if I absolutely have to. And the reading class I took last summer proved that there are teachers in this world that can assign an interesting book from the 1800s. But I don’t want to grow to hate reading or writing. That’s my biggest fear.

The other thing that’s holding me back is the fact that 12 credit hours are required to be taken on campus. Which is thirty minutes away. I’m sure I could space out those credit hours so that I don’t have to spend too much time driving per semester, but I’d still be sacrificing time in the evenings with my husband. So that’s something to consider…

Fortunately, I have until the end of January to make up my mind. The university I’m looking at begins accepting portfolios from Creative Writing students in February. If they decide I’m worthy to enter into their bachelor’s program, then I’ll move forward. If not, then I guess my decision has been made for me. And, of course, I have to consult my husband. We were both pretty psyched about not having to pay for school anymore. (This summer class I’m taking now has already been paid for.) We’re still saving up to replace his truck; having a school payment for the next two years will definitely slow that process down. Also, kids might come in the next two years and I don’t want to be in school while I’m raising kids. My mom did that. I could see how hard it was for her to balance it all. I don’t want to have to make the choice between homework and spending time with my babies.

I’m praying God will show me the way, make it absolutely clear whether this is the right thing for me to do or not. He’s done it in the past. For now, I’ll keep waiting and thinking and doing research.

The next novel

I’m excited to announce that I’m finished with my first draft of my first ever science fiction novel, The Andromeda’s Ghost. I’ve been working on this manuscript on and off for over a year now. It’s been fun but also challenging.

While I love Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Chronicles of Riddick, I don’t consider myself to be a sci-fi fan. I’ve only ever read a handful of sci-fi books (Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Han Solo Trilogy by Ann C. Crispin). Honestly, I struggled through the techie and sciencey parts of those books. What I truly love about all of these stories are the plots, the characters, the world building, and the unique challenges the characters are faced with. I’m confident I nailed those parts of my sci-fi manuscript. What I’m more concerned with is the techie parts I included. And the fact that it’s written exclusively from a male’s perspective.

As you can imagine, I’m pretty good at writing from a girl’s perspective but I’m still learning how to sound like a convincing guy. My husband has helped me with this in the past and now I’m having a male friend read over The Andromeda’s Ghost to give me some feedback on how believable the main character is as a young adult male. We’ll see what he says.

While I wait for his feedback, I’m getting ready to dabble in my other stories.

But then I got an interesting thought: I could query this manuscript to agents. I Dare You to Love Me, In the Dark, and Asta and the Barbarians are all under contracts. Any sequels I end up producing for them will have to be presented to their respective publishing houses. But this sci-fi and it’s sequels are free from commitments right now. With some published books under my belt, would that better my chances of getting a literary agent for this book?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m so thankful for Tirgearr Publishing and Inkitt. They took a chance on me and published my books when nobody else seemed interested. Working with them has been easy, enjoyable, and educational. But book marketing is turning out to be my weakness in this industry. I’ve tried all the free avenues and have spent as much money as I can to promote my books. I’ve read articles and reached out to reviewers. I’ve seen adequate sales but, considering all the work I’m putting into this, I feel like the number of books sold should be a little higher. I don’t mean to sound like an ingrate. I’m just being honest.

According to the author forums and Facebook pages I’ve visited, hiring a publicist isn’t worth the money. But having a professional to work side by side with me, give me weekly tips, and carry some of the load sounds really good right about now. I’m just so tired of putting in the effort every single day and not seeing satisfactory results. I feel like I’m in an infomercial, giving that desperate look to the camera and saying, “There has to be an easier way!” Will having an agent make that part of being an author a little easier? I don’t know. But I’m so tempted to try putting myself out there again.

A part of me doesn’t want to open myself up to rejection. I mean, I have two publishing houses that would be willing to publish this manuscript for me. It would be so much easier to pick one of them and get it done. But I don’t just want to see this manuscript in print. I want it to be distributed to as many people as possible.

Uuuuuuuuggggggggghhhhhhh!

Calling out to my fellow authors, those with agents and without: What do you guys think I should do?

End of the semester reflections

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “Another year…gone.” Only in this case it’s a semester. I took my usual three classes and managed to swing “A”s in all. (Thank God.)

Intermediate Fiction was by far the most challenging because the teacher had us writing a new short story every month. It tested my creativity, forced me to think outside the box. But I’m thankful for this because it yielded some surprisingly good results, with “Entering the Deep” and “To Kill a Vampire” especially. My teacher also had us students giving each other detailed feedback on our stories. There was a form with questions we had to fill out, which made us stop to think about what we just read. I’m not the greatest when it comes to critiquing. I read books for enjoyment, not with the intent to break them down or analyze them. And short stories have never been my cup of tea, mostly because they lack that character development and fluff of a full blown novel (which I love so much). So giving good feedback was also a challenge for me. But, once again, I’m thankful for this. It helped me develop good critiquing skills.

Planning and Structuring the Novel was great. As the title might suggest, we students were given the opportunity to submit excerpts from our current works in progress to receive constructive criticism from classmates and our instructor. This kind of feedback wasn’t as specific as the feedback I received for my short stories, but I was made aware of some important plot issues with “The Andromeda’s Ghost.” (This is a science-fiction novel I’ve been working on. I’ve posted an excerpt or two on the blog in the past.) This novel is my first attempt at science-fiction so it was great to hear that I was doing a good job so far. My instructor’s thoughts especially were helpful. There’s just something about working alongside an impartial adult, who has studied writing and literature, and genuinely likes your work…I’m going to miss discussing my story with that man.

My Portfolio class was filled with more feedback. I basically submitted all of the short stories I was thinking about putting in my portfolio and the teacher, the Director of the Creative Writing Program, gave me his thoughts. In order to get my Certificate of Completion for the Creative Writing Program at Phoenix College, I have to submit a portfolio with 12-15 pages of original work from two different genres, a letter of intent stating my writing goals, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher. I was asked to provide three copies of this, so I can only assume that the director of the program and two mystery people will be reading my work and making the final decision.

Naturally, I agonized over which stories to submit. The three stories I wrote this semester are my favorites out of my little stack of shorts, but they’re all at least 12 pages long, maybe more. I’d only be able to include one. I’ve written a few poems but I didn’t feel confident turning in any of those. (Although, now that I think about it, I could’ve totally turned in my prose poem about public speaking! Dang it! Oh, well…) In the end, I went with a horror story I wrote last semester and the mermaid story I wrote more recently. Combined, they fell within the page limit so it worked out. For better or worse, I’ve mailed it in. Now all I can do is wait.

I’m not technically done with the program yet. I have one more reading class I have to take, but it’s not available until the summer of 2018. I emailed the director of the program, thinking I’d have to wait to turn in my portfolio. He said I didn’t have to wait. He seemed to think I had a shot at that certificate, which was encouraging to hear.

So my schooling is pretty much over. I’ll be going back for that one class in the summer, but then I’ll be done! [insert girlish shriek of excitement here]

I still don’t know if I want to get a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. A part of me thinks I won’t need it. Another part of me is terrified that I’ll totally flop as an author and I’ll need a backup plan. I do okay in school but it’s not something I want to do for the next four to eight years of my life. I want to be focusing on kids and my writing during that time. But life is…well…to quote Forrest Gump, “Life [is] like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.” I could do really good as an author, really bad, or just mediocre. I want to be prepared for all of those outcomes. I want to have a plan. That’s who I am; a planner. So what will I do if, by this time next year, I can’t make a living off my writing? Do I keep at it? Do I get my Bachelor’s and try to get a job at a publishing company? Do I pick another major?

The thing is, I can’t think of anything else I’d want to study. Sure, for a while I thought it would be cool to be an interpreter. I enjoyed learning American Sign Language and all about the deaf community. But when my job conflicted with the scheduling of the interpreter’s program at Phoenix College, I wasn’t devastated that I had to give it up. I would be devastated if I had to give up writing. But I love reading and writing. I feel like getting my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing will make me start to hate these things I love so much…

Uuuuuggggghhhhhh.

It takes effort to trust that everything is going to be fine so long as I do my best. It’s hard for me to be okay with the fact that I don’t have all the answers. It helps that I have a great, merciful God who doesn’t mind repeating that He has everything under control. It also helps that it’s Christmas time and I have family to distract me. Tonight, my husband and I will be flying to Wisconsin to spend the holiday with his mother and brothers. I’m so looking forward to seeing them and having my first white Christmas. Another semester is over. It’s time to celebrate. That’s what I need to be focusing on right now. After the holidays, I’ll be working on book promotion and finishing that science-fiction novel. What comes after that can be decided later.

If I don’t post anything else before the new year, let me just say Merry Christmas to you all. See you in 2018!

My first review

In the spirit of building good relationships with other authors, I agreed to do a swap review with short story author T. L. Sallie. Her story, “The Submerged,” is a twenty page long futuristic romance. I was given a free copy in exchange for this review.

“The Submerged” starts off by introducing us to Phillip Hoffman Jr, a single man living in London. He has lost his job of eight years and doesn’t know quite what to do with himself. Because of his lack of income, he has moved into an apartment on the ground level, which is under three feet of water.

In this futuristic setting, the polar ice caps have melted so much that the sea levels are higher than they’ve ever been and are flooding coastal cities all over the world. Civilization has adapted to this inconvenience by raising the blocks of building foundations every few months, and by creating water-proof items (clothes, furniture, gadgets, etc). There is even floating furniture and cars in this story. Anyone who can’t afford floating transportation has the option of phoning a ferry or using whatever inflatable device they have at home to maneuver the streets, now rivers.

The premise alone is unique and interesting. It made me think of the poor people affected by the hurricanes, especially the people in Houston who suffered from flooding. How does life go on? How is a new norm developed when there’s so much water everywhere? At least the people in the story had the latest technology on their side to make things a little easier.

Anyway, Phillip ventures out of his apartment for the first time in a long time and runs into his neighbor, a young lady named Clara. After exchanging pleasantries, Phillip gathers his courage and asks her out on a date. The rest of the story tells about their evening. Clara turns out to be a straight-forward girl who pursues difficult topics of conversation and states her honest opinion without fear. Phillip, who is a little unsure of himself and insecure about the fact that he hasn’t been on a date in a long time, is drawn to Clara’s blunt personality and pretty brown eyes. Through the ups and downs of the evening, he falls in love with her. Whether the feelings are reciprocated or not is unclear. The ending comes quite suddenly, leaving the reader wondering what could’ve happened to this odd couple had the story continued.

The story could’ve done with another round of edits to get rid of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, but was otherwise enjoyable. I liked its originality and the descriptions of this futuristic London with its unique water problem. The character of Clara is truly one I’ve never come across before. The author had me guessing what she was going to do or say next.

Interested in reading the story yourself? Click here for a ninety-nine cent ebook copy.

For more information on author T.L. Sallie and her work, check out the links below!

Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTLSallie/

Author site: https://tlsallie.wixsite.com/author

Author blog: https://tlsallie.wixsite.com/author/blog

Publishing Updates

Last week, I signed a contract with Inkitt to publish my young adult fiction novel, I Dare You to Love Me. It was a challenging decision for me to make because I had been given the opportunity to Revise and Resubmit this manuscript to an acquisitions editor from Filles Vertes Publishing. I wanted to remain loyal to that editor; she’d given me a second chance along with some invaluable constructive feedback. But after seven weeks of silence from her, it was time to move forward. I never thought I’d have to send a rejection letter. I’ve received enough to know how to write a cordial one, but it still wasn’t fun. All I can do is hope she’ll understand why I decided to accept Inkitt’s offer.

Just before this, I received word from Tirgearr Publishing that they decided to publish Asta and the Barbarians after they publish In the Dark! So now all of my completed manuscripts are going to be published. (Insert girlish shriek of excitement here).

The publishing schedule for my novels is as follows:

I Dare You to Love Me — October 2017

In the Dark — January 2018

Asta and the Barbarians — April 2018

Inkitt is giving readers the opportunity to receive a free ebook copy of I Dare You to Love Me on launch day. If interested, click here.

It’s still hard for me to believe. Everything’s been happening so fast. I’m exhilarated and proud and humbled and thankful and terrified all at once. Have I mentioned that already? Well, it’s worth mentioning twice! I don’t know what these next few months are going to be like. I’m taking three writing classes this semester, working full-time, and trying to finish another manuscript. There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get these novels ready for their publication dates, but I’m sure I’ll come up with a new routine as things develop. It’s just like the beginning of a school semester. Looking at the syllabus and the assignments that are going to be due, it overwhelms me. But, so long as I take it one week at a time, it’s manageable. At the end of each semester, I’ve been able to look back and think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”

Everything I’ve done for my manuscripts has led up to this point. It’s real now. It’s go time. I can’t wait to get started!

The Dream

I finally got that “yes” I’ve been waiting to hear for almost five years. After sending countless query letters, doing research, writing and rewriting, working with beta readers, sprucing up my writer’s resume, developing a social media presence, creating a blog, and participating in Pitch Madness, a publisher has offered me a book contract for In the Dark.

Just like that.

It doesn’t feel real. Upon hearing the news, I felt elation, validation, pride, humility, and thankfulness. Now that all that has passed, however, I can’t help but feel a little strange. I’ve arrived. I’ve made it. It’s…over?

I’m not naive enough to think that the work is over. I’m sure I’ll have to go through several more editing, formatting, and cover design phases before the manuscript is actually published. Then after that, it’ll be onto the promoting stage. So why does this feel like the end of something? Well, I guess it is to some degree. It’s the end of this stage of my writing career.

How weird is that? I have a writing career now. Before, it was just a dream, a seemingly unattainable goal I had to keep trying to reach because I couldn’t imagine not trying. Now, it’s suddenly real.

I’ve mentioned several times in my blog posts how I’ve had moments in my life when I feel like an adult. When I take on new responsibilities, or when I’ve learned something new and good about myself, or when I’ve pushed my limits and come out victorious in the end, or when I’ve dared to go somewhere or do something that my younger self never would have. Then there are other times when I still feel like that clueless, sheltered, high school girl who doesn’t know anything.

This is one of those rare moments when I feel like both. Adults have careers. They accomplish big, life-changing goals and move on to the next item on their list. But are they ever afraid of what comes next? Are they ever uncertain? Do they ever feel a tiny bit of loss when endings come, even if those endings are good? Or is that just the child within me?

I can’t help but remember that scene in Tangled. Rapunzel and Flynn are sitting in the boat, waiting for the paper lanterns to appear.

Rapunzel says, “I’ve been looking out a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what it might feel like to see those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?”

Flynn says, “It will be.”

“And what if it is? What do I do then?” Rapunzel counters.

And Flynn in his casual way says, “Well, that’s the good part, I guess. You get to go and find a new dream.”

I guess that’s really all I can do, huh?

More details to come. 🙂

The end of the semester

Final grades have been officially entered. I received A’s in all my classes (Intro to Poetry, Intro to Horror, and Literature and Film).

Intro to Poetry and Into to Horror were challenging, as I knew they would be. Neither come naturally to me but I discovered that I could create both, after much study and practice. I personally think my horror pieces are better than my poems, but I’m still proud of the fact that I can write them now. I feel more rounded as a writer, and I’m really thankful for my teachers. They helped make these classes interesting for me, despite the challenges. They encouraged me, told me where I could improve, gave me good advice, and provided books I could continue learning from even after the classes were over.

Literature and Film was just fun. I got to watch movies and read stories that are considered classics but I’d never willingly read or watch on my own (Jaws, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King and it’s adaptation The Shawshank Redemption, The Body by Stephen King and it’s adaption Stand By Me.) I feel more cultured as a movie geek having watched these. For the final project, we were allowed to choose a book and movie adaption to analyze. I chose The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and it’s partial adaptation The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It was the easiest, most enjoyable final project I’ve ever had to do.

Despite all the fun and the growth I’ve experienced this semester, I’m relieved to be done. With the completion of Literature and Film, I gained the last few credits I needed in order to be done with my Associates in Arts. After four years and five months of balancing school and work, I can finally say I have a degree. I’ll be getting my diploma in the mail in ten business days. It might not seem like much when compared to other kids my age who stayed home, had the freedom to just go to school, and are now finishing up their bachelor’s degrees. But it’s a big deal to me. I’m done with something I set out to do a long time ago. That feels good.

These last few classes I’m taking in the summer and in the fall are for an Academic Certificate in Creative Writing (an associates in Creative Writing.) After that, the sky’s the limit. I could transfer to a university and get a bachelors and/or masters in Creative Writing if I wanted to. I think I’m going to take a break. I haven’t taken a real break since I started college. A part of me is a little nervous. If, for example, a great job within a publishing company is brought to my attention and I’m disqualified because of my lack of education, will I have the strength to go back to school? Will I have the willpower? Or am I shooting myself in the foot by not pursuing higher education now, while I’ve got the momentum? I’m trying not to worry about it, though. Too often I feel as if I choose to do what I think I have to do. In the area of school, I believe it’s time to do what I want to do. Besides, my husband and I are already saddled with his school debt. I don’t think we could handle paying off any more school loans with the jobs we currently have. In the future, who knows?

I’m looking forward to devoting more time to my writing and expanding my contacts in the publishing world. I’m really looking forward to not having to worry about homework!

Here’s to the future and all it’s possibilities!

So children…

I’ve wanted to be a mother since I was fifteen years old. I know, I know. I’m weird. Normal girls at that age are thinking about boys, school, their friends, and the latest gossip. Well, I was mostly invisible to boys, I wasn’t too crazy about social gatherings, my friends didn’t attend my school, and gossiping about others has never appealed to me, so the only thing left to really think about (other than books and movies and my stories) was the future. At fifteen, I knew I wanted a big family. After all, I came from a big family. Being an introvert and a bookworm wasn’t such a bad thing when I had three siblings to hang out with. I knew having all of us kids must have been hard on my parents, but I also knew that they wouldn’t trade us for anything.

At fifteen, I knew what kind of man I wanted to marry. Having just broken up with my first boyfriend, I decided I didn’t like heartbreak. I didn’t like feeling like I wasn’t good enough for someone, like I was stupid for letting my guard down, like I had completely misjudged this person I once claimed to love and know everything about. I decided I wasn’t very fond of this thing called dating. It was fickle and unreliable and temporary. I wanted something more permanent. I wanted a husband. After only one year in high school, I knew none of the boys there were husband material. Call it instinct, call it very good observation skills, call it whatever you want, I just knew my future husband was not the guy sitting next to me in Biology. (There was a time when I wished he was. My sophomore Biology partner was a year older, Hispanic, into dirt bikes and adrenaline rushes, and thought I was cute. I might have been able to convince myself that he could have been my future husband if he had any interest in God…No regrets, though.)

Sure, I crushed really hard on a few guys and almost started dating two of them, but in the end I couldn’t see myself marrying either of them. Both had admirable qualities, but I had made a list of attributes I wanted in a husband and I was committed to sticking to it. (I went over this list repeatedly, adding things as I grew up, erasing things that I realized weren’t very realistic.) I prayed about it all the time, asking God to give me the strength and the patience to wait for my perfect fit. (I hope I’m not starting to sound holier-than-thou; I have a point here. I promise I’ll get to it quickly.) Anyway, God was faithful and did eventually introduce me to the man I’m married to today. Believe it or not, he has everything on my list, including some habits and qualities that I never knew I wanted. He also comes from a big family and has wanted to be a father for as long as he can remember.

Because we both feel so strongly about it, the subject of kids came up early in our relationship. (I learned three things about my husband in our first month of dating; he liked to travel, he wasn’t afraid of anything, and he wanted children.) Shortly after we got married, we compiled a list of house rules for our kids, just because we wanted to be prepared and on the same page about some things. (If you haven’t noticed yet, we’re very weird. That’s just who we are.) The older we got, the more real this concept of being parents became. Witnessing hissy fits at the grocery store, being thrown up on while volunteering in our church’s nursery, over-hearing bratty kids in the line at Chipotle, and watching movies starring lazy, disrespectful kids has done little to dissuade our desire to have children.

I was told once that if I waited for the day when I could afford children, I’d never have any. I’m sure whoever said that was half-joking, but I’ve spoken to several more parents since then and they’ve all seemed to reach the same consensus: there is no perfect time to have kids. Still, I was raised by a very logical, realistic father who always thought carefully about things before doing anything life-changing. (This instinct, his sweet tooth, and his stubbornness are some of the things I inherited from him.) My husband and I have needs that should be met before kids enter the picture. My husband’s truck has lived longer than any car either of us has ever owned; it needs to be replaced. We’ve started setting money aside and building up our credit for the day it finally craps out on us and we’ll be forced to replace it. I’m eight credits away from finishing my creative writing program and being done with school (at least for now). Thirdly, my husband is trying to get into the police academy because his current job is sucking the life out of him. Plus, a larger paycheck would be nice. I figured it would be wise to wait until we’ve accomplished these three things before trying to have children, and my husband agreed.

And then last week he tells me, “I’m ready when you are, babe.”

Cue panic attack.

Suddenly, there are lots of reasons not to have a child. I’m too young. I haven’t published a book yet. What if I’m a terrible mother? What if the child comes before my husband gets a better-paying job? What if we can’t pay the bills and are forced to move back into an apartment? After living in a spacious house for eleven months, we’ve accumulated some extra things and I really don’t want to have to rent a storage unit. I don’t know how to talk to children! Bring on the spit-up, the poopy diapers, the sleepless nights, and the endless screaming. I can deal with that. But a talking child, who is old enough to reason and make their own deductions, will be able to tell that I have no idea what I’m doing. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I drop the kid? What if I ruin his life?

Suddenly, I’m not ready.

Or am I? My mother was nineteen when she had my oldest brother. My dad was the only one working for many years. Mom stayed home with us. We didn’t have much, but we always had something to wear and we never went hungry. If God could take care of us then, He can definitely take care of us now. Sure, I have a hard time interacting with other people’s children, children who can take one look at me and sense the uncertainty. But it might be different with my own child. My mom said the wrong thing once or twice and she dropped me as a baby, and I turned out all right. She made mistakes and she didn’t ruin my life. I’m pretty sure if I try my hardest and I love the snot out of the little person who comes out of me, I’ll be a good mom.

I’ve never been so confused.

Should I or shouldn’t I?

I’ve been praying about this ever since my husband brought it up last week. I wish God would just tell me what I should do. He does that sometimes, makes the path that I should take crystal clear. And then, at other times, He leaves it up to me. I feel like He’s doing that now, like He’s saying, “You’ll be okay either way. You decide.”

Ugh. It would be easier if He just told me what I should do. Then I wouldn’t have to have this same argument over and over again in my head. I’ll keep thinking about it and praying about it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even write another blog post about it. Sometimes, it just helps to think out loud.

 

Adulting

The baby shower was going to start in twenty minutes and I didn’t have anything to wrap my present with. I had some tape, a bow, a lot of colored tissue paper, and a plethora of “Merry Christmas” gift bags, and that was pretty much it. I’d just been to the grocery store that morning and had remembered to snatch a card, but somehow I’d forgotten to get a gift bag. Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who was driving us both to this event) graciously offered to stop by the 99 cent store on the corner. I hopped out of the car, ran in, snatched the biggest baby gift bag I could find, and zipped into the check out line. Once outside, I stood at the curb and waited for my sister-in-law to come around the parking lot. I hurried up to her car when she was near enough, tucking a stray curl behind my ear.

That’s when I caught my reflection in the passenger’s side window.

I don’t see myself as an adult. I may be twenty-two years old but, physically, I’ve looked exactly the same since I was fifteen. I’ve had my own car, my own apartment, my own bills, and my own job ever since I was nineteen. I’ll be celebrating two years of marriage this May. I live in a four bedroom, two bathroom rental house with a husband, a very old, very fat tabby cat, and a hyperactive miniature Australian shepherd who can’t produce tears. (We still don’t know why. She was very sick with an unknown illness for the first six months of her life and we’re thinking all the different medications we had to give her might have damaged her tear-ducts somehow, but we can’t prove that. We should really get her to a dog eye specialist but we don’t have that kind of money, so we have to resort to giving her eye drops three to four times a day. Yes, we love this dog.) I plan meals and manage finances while balancing 30 hours a week at the office and 9 credit hours per semester.

I have goals for the future which involve finishing school, becoming a published, well-known author, and helping my husband the police officer raise our four kids. It all sounds very adultly, right? And yet, I still see myself as that fifteen-year-old girl who thought Twilight was the greatest love story ever told and didn’t know anything about the real world.

So when I looked into that car window and saw a young lady, all dolled up and ready to attend a baby shower, I blinked in surprise. Because, for a second there, I actually looked like an adult.

My husband believes we never really grow up. We might physically change and become more responsible as life demands, but that little kid lives on inside of us. Sometimes its voice is loud and its influence is strong, while at other times we can suppress it more successfully. With all the “adulting” memes out there, I think he might be right. I find that I feel the youngest when I’m geeking out about Star Wars or when I’m daydreaming about The Magical World of Harry Potter theme park or when I’m listening to the kind of emo music I used to listen to as a teenager or when I visit my old haunts in Mexico. That little kid inside me sure loves to throw a fit when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m. But then there’s the voice of reason, the voice of the Adult, reminding me of all the things I have to get done and how much work will pile up if I listen to the Kid and simply pull the covers over my head.

If I take a good look at the choices I’ve made throughout my life, I can honestly say that I’ve listened to the Adult more often than I’ve listened to the Kid. My husband often has to tell me when it’s time to relax or take a break or set the schedule aside and just hang out. Indulge the Kid. So why don’t I feel like an Adult more often?

Good question…

I think it’s because of the conviction that I don’t know anything. All right, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been in college for three years and have worked for three different establishments, and have read more books than I can count. After all that, I should know something, but every day I encounter new things. Every day it seems I come across an article, a person, a conversation heard in passing, or an event that reminds me of just how much I still have to learn about life, love, politics, insurance, government, taxes, credit, education, literature, creative writing, finance, morality, the Bible, my family members and friends, even my husband. There are still topics I don’t understand. There’s still stuff in this world that I haven’t discovered yet. It leaves me feeling like a child who’s still figuring it all out.

Sometimes I have to wonder: will I ever feel like an adult? Will I ever feel like I’ve got this life thing figured out? A part of me would like to have the answers to everything. It might make life simpler. But another part of me hopes that I won’t ever reach that point. Because what is someone supposed to do after they’ve discovered everything there is to know? Maybe that’s why it’s so important the keep that little kid around. After all, without it’s sense of wonder, humility, and discovery, how are we supposed to grow?

For the love of a slurpee

It was four o’clock in the evening and the baby wanted a blue raspberry slurpee.

I was sitting on the couch with my feet propped up, flipping through the channels, trying not to think about the lasagna in the oven and the wonderful odors wafting through the apartment, praying Peter would see my text and pick up a slurpee for me on his way home from the office. I checked my phone; there was no reply. I re-checked it two seconds later and there was still no reply. I could’ve called him on his car phone, but I didn’t want to be the cause of an accident.

“This is ridiculous,” I muttered, placing a hand over my balloon belly and rising from the couch with difficulty. I stood there a moment to be sure I wasn’t going to tip back into the couch and then proceeded into the kitchen. According to the oven’s timer, the lasagna still had ten minutes before it would be done. Then I had to let it sit so that I wouldn’t burn my tongue with scalding hot cheese and sauce. My mouth watered just thinking about it. A dehydrated lasagna only took five minutes to make, but it didn’t have the same taste as an organic lasagna. On most days, it was worth the wait. Today, I wasn’t so sure. The baby kicked insistently.

I blew my bangs out of my face. “All right. I’ll get you a slurpee.” There was a fueling station just around the corner. Normally, my swollen ankles would keep me from walking across the apartment much less down the street but they were feeling good today. I waddled over to the shoe rack by the front door and slipped into my sandals. I checked my reflection in the circle mirror hanging with our wedding pictures to be sure my hair was behaving. Then I ventured out.

“Front door,” I said as I shut it behind me. “Please lock and tell my husband that I went to get a slurpee. If the lasagna should finish before I come back, turn off the oven.”

“Understood, ma’am,” the automated voice replied. There was a click as the locks slid into place and then silence.

I loped past my neighbor, Paul, who held bags full of dehydrated meal packs and argued with his front door.

“I don’t care what my wife said. I am not beating her. Now open!” he practically snarled.

“I’m sorry, sir, but my programming compels me to protect the woman of this household,” the door said calmly. “If she says you are beating her, I must believe her. Lower your voice or I will be forced to phone the authorities.”

Paul leaned in to glare at the screen located at eye-level in the middle of the door. “I already said I was sorry, Georgette. I have the food you asked me to buy, now, let me in.”

“Leave it on the doorstep and go! You obviously don’t love me anymore!” his wife screeched from inside the apartment.

Paul groaned and smashed his head against the door.

“Hang in there, Paul,” I said in passing.

“Thanks, Jill,” he muttered, forehead still pressed against the metal door.

“I’m detecting some measure of pain in your voice, sir,” a neighboring door said. “Should I call for an ambulance?”

The elevator doors shut before I could hear Paul’s reply. “Where to, ma’am?”

I smiled at the computer screen in the wall. “Lobby, please.”

“Right away, ma’am.”

Two minutes later, I was waddling out into society. One would think that after the invention of floating cars and speeder bikes, there wouldn’t be anyone walking anymore. Still pedestrians littered the sidewalks.

“Only freaks and homeless people still walk around town, Jill,” my husband would say whenever I suggested we take a stroll.

He might have been right but there was something refreshing about using one’s own legs to go somewhere. The artificial grass in the front yards on either side of my apartment complex was the approved length and color. Someone from the Home Owner’s Society must have been by recently. The trees sprouting up from their fenced areas had sparkling golden leaves hanging from their metallic branches. Was it autumn already? The months were just flying by! Speeder bikes and hovering cars zipped to and fro on the street in their respective lanes. I couldn’t watch them for too long without getting vertigo. I took a deep breath, stared fixedly at the fuel station I could see in the distance, and put one foot in front of the other. A lady with mint green hair and glassy pink eyes abandoned her floating grocery cart and approached me to ask if I had any spare change.

I blinked at her, mouth agape. “No one uses change anymore.”

She dug around the pockets of her filthy dress and held out an old bank chip. “You could transfer some money over to me then. I think this thing still works.” She squeezed it between her fingers, desperately watching for the flash of light that would prove the chip’s functionality. The chip produced no such light.

“I’m very sorry but I have to get going now,” I stammered and then dashed away.

A man with a pig’s nose, blue and white feathers for hair, and a piercing through his lip walked up to me next, shoving a moving picture of a Labradoodle in my face. “Have you seen my dog, Mr. Scruffles?”

I reared back and slapped a hand over my nose before I could be overwhelmed by the smells of alcohol and urine. “No, I haven’t. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m pregnant and have a very acute sense of smell.” I continued apologizing as I walked away.

This is more dangerous than I thought it would be. I should’ve stayed in the apartment…I placed a protective hand over my belly and loped along even faster. Don’t worry, baby. Almost there. 

A robot stopped traffic so that I could cross the street and then I arrived at the fuel station. Despite everything that had changed in the world, Circle K was still thriving. It, like many gas stations, had simply changed the kind of fuel they sold and was able to salvage their business when regular cars became obsolete. I side-stepped the man with the tentacles on his face who methodically looked through the movie racks by the door, and suppressed a shudder. Kissing must be really weird for his kind…If they even kiss.

“Hello!” the cheerful cashier called from behind her counter. She had blonde hair, bright orange skin, and three eyes but her smile was warm.

I smiled back. “Hi, there.”

I hurried over to the slurpee section and snagged one of the larger cups. I was back at the counter in seconds, swiping my bank chip to pay for my drink. I took a large gulp on my way out and gave myself a brain freeze, but it was worth it. I could feel my baby doing victory cartwheels in my belly. I waved goodbye to the happy cashier and began my journey back home…only to run into a kid on a hover board. Well, technically he ran into me. His board bashed against my calf and sent him falling into my side with an oof. I stumbled with a shout of surprise and the slurpee left my hand. I watched in horror and dismay as the foam cup smashed against the asphalt and burst, sending blue slush everywhere. The boy apologized a million times but I didn’t have the strength to look up. Blinking back defeated tears, I turned away from him and headed back inside.